Publication details [#57083]

Wallentin, Mikkel, Arndis Simonsen and Højlund Andreas. 2013. Action speaks louder than words: Empathy mainly modulates emotions from theory of mind-laden parts of a story. Scientific Study of Literature 3 (1) : 137–153.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Narratives are thought to evoke emotions through empathy, which is thought to rely on mentalizing. In this study young adults rated emotional intensity while listening to a narrative and took an empathy test. The study shows how empathy correlates well with overall level of experienced intensity. However, no correlation with empathy is found in the parts of the story that received highest intensity ratings across participants. Reverse correlation analysis reveals that these parts contain physical threat scenarios, while parts where empathy is correlated with intensity describe social interaction that can only be understood through mentalizing. This suggests that narratives evoke emotions, both based on “simple” physical contagion (affective empathy) and on complex mentalizing (affective theory of mind) and that these effects may be more or less independent.